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Buick’s crossovers — the compact Encore and 7-passenger Enclave — have led its post-bankruptcy recovery.
But a sedan in Buick’s stable is also making noise. The midsize Regal has been on a tear lately. In July, sales were up 31 percent over July 2014. With sedan sales in an industry-wide slump, Regal has given Buick something to cheer about.
Buick pitches the $28,000 Regal as the value leader of the near-luxury segment, an argument it supports with upscale amenities, contemporary technologies and good old-fashioned creature comforts.
Regal is based on a sport sedan developed by GM’s German subsidiary Open. A high-end GS trim capitalizes on that heritage with aggressive engine tuning, a sport suspension and torque-vectoring AWD system.
No Regal leaves the factory sans keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control. Ice-blue ambient lighting bathes the understated, well-appointed cabin in a crisp glow.
For 2015, Regal also inherits GM’s 4G LTE, with Wi-Fi, turning the Regal into a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot.
Other standard tech includes a rearview camera and 8-inch color touchscreen. Regal’s IntelliLink smartphone and voice-command system can read aloud incoming text messages.
All Regals are equipped with foglights, automatic headlights, dual exhaust tips, heated power mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Regal is available in FWD and AWD versions, and with four powertrain variants. The base, 2.4-liter four makes 182 horsepower and can be optionally equipped with GM’s mild hybrid technology (regenerative braking; fuel cut-off when coasting) to earn 36 highway mpg.
The up-level engine is a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four that makes 259 hp. Two variants include one with conventional torque-mapping and another, more aggressively tuned version reserved for the GS trim ($38,310, FWD; $40,375, AWD).
The GS adds a sport-tuned suspension with adaptive front dampers that mitigate torque-steer and reduce the jarring impact of bumps taken at speed. There are also Brembo front brakes, unique front and rear fascias, a rear spoiler, front and rear parking sensors and body-color rocker panels.
Nineteen-inch wheels are standard, 20s are optional.
GS ride height is lowered nearly an inch from the stock settings and an Interactive Drive Control system includes a pair of performance-oriented modes that firm up suspension, steering and shift calibration.
The Haldex AWD system fitted to Turbo trims is can shift up to 90 percent of power to the rear wheels. A limited-slip rear differential manages torque distribution, side-to-side, improving foul-weather grip and enhancing GS handling when Interactive Drive Control is operative.
Inside, GS gets sport pedals, sport front seats and a flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel.
The GS compensates for its firm ride with well-controlled body motions and confidence-building handling. Turn-in in quick corners is accurate and stable and the mitigation of torque steering improves handling on exit. The electrically assisted steering system is well weighted, but lacks feel.
Regal’s smallish cabin dimensions limit rear-seat passenger space is tight and leave little room for in-cabin storage space.
Buyers seem willing to look past those concerns, though, and focus on Regal’s strengths, which are abundant indeed.
Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2015 Buick Regal AWD GS
Vehicle base price: $25,982
Trim level base price: $39,810
As tested: $44,670
Options included adaptive cruise control; forward collision alert; automatic collision prep; rear cross-traffic alert; lane-departure warning; blind-spot alert; moonroof; 20-inch aluminum wheels; summer performance tires.
EPA ratings: 22 combined/19 city/27 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified
This year, Acura charts a simple but significant course correction for its compact ILX sedan.
The near-luxury ILX has grown more refined in each of its first four years, but this year’s updates are the most significant by far.
Acura’s all-new TLX sedan may be the ideal near-luxury car for the Inland Northwest.
It favors subtlety over flash, does its business quietly and gets the job done, fair weather and foul.
And, at $31,890, including transportation, it’s as affordably priced as the segment gets.
The TLX replaces two cars in the Acura lineup, the compact TLX and the midsize TL. It’s offered with a pair of familiar engines — a four-cylinder from the TSX and the TL's V-6. Both are paired with efficiency-inclined new transmissions. Acura’s sensational torque-vectoring SH-AWD AWD system is available on six-cylinder models.
On front-drive trims, the TLX resurrects the four-wheel-steering system Honda (Acura is Honda’s premium brand) debuted on the 1988 Prelude. Dubbed P-AWS (Precision All-Wheel Steer), its effects are subtle and critical only when some maniac is tossing the TL through the corners.
Just the way I like it.
Like its forebears, the TLX is comfortable, well-equipped and sturdily built. It blends luxury and sport in a stew that skews too far in neither direction. Its interior improves on its predecessors’, with excellent materials quality and top-notch fit and finish. Noise-cancellation technology slashes cabin noise to a murmur and the plushly padded seats are nicely bolstered.
There’s abundant rear legroom, though the sweeping roofline limits rear-seat headroom.
Up front, the TLX borrows heavily from the flagship RL, including Acura’s new twin-screen electronics interface. Mastering the system requires some book-time, but it works as promised.
Still, I assign Acura demerits for burying such fundamentals as the seat-heater controls behind a screen or two.
At 3,480 pounds in front-drive trim, the TLX is lighter than the TL it replaces. That’s a load for the base, 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four, which is paired with an all-new eight-speed automated manual transmission. Some say the four-cylinder TLX is the more entertaining drive — less weight over the front wheels translates into sharper cornering — but for most drivers the payoff comes at the pump; four-cylinder trims earn EPA ratings of 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway).
The up-level engine is a 290-hp, 3.5-liter six mated to a nine-speed automatic. Six-cylinder trims can be ordered with or without AWD.
So equipped, the TLX weighs in at 3,770 pounds and swaps the light-on-its-feet agility of front-drive trims for greater acceleration and improved stability in all conditions. Efficiency drops to an EPA-estimated 25/21/31.
In both trims, ride and handling approaches the Teutonic ideal. The ride is likely be too stiff for some sensibilities, but it’s never rough or harsh. The upside is a car that isn’t upset by undulations, railroad crossings or broken road surfaces. Even at speed, the well-damped suspension keeps the works under control.
The electrically assisted power steering system is nicely weighted, with good on-center feel, but doesn’t communicate much information from the road surface.
In the end, other midsize near-luxury sedans are more luxurious and some are sportier. Buy perhaps none matches the new Acura’s blend of attributes, including price. Similarly equipped competitive models are likely to cost thousands more.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2015 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD ADV
Vehicle base price: $29,168
Trim level base price: $44,700
As tested: $45,595
Optional equipment: The 3.5L SH-AWD ADV includes such extras as navigation, premium audio and assorted safety systems, including collision-avoidance.
EPA ratings: 25 combined/21 city/31 highway
Unleaded premium fuel recommended
In 2002, GM debuted a new suspension technology called Magnetic Ride Control (MRC).
For 2013, Toyota set out not to merely update the full-size Avalon; instead, it gave its underachieving flagship a personality transplant.
It's all-GM all-the-time this week here at Seat Time.
For the past few days, we've focused on Chevy's new mini-car, the Spark. For the next few days we'll look at Cadillac's newest and smallest, the ATS sport sedan.
We might as well get this out of the way right up top; Cadillac makes no bones of the fact that it benchmarked BMW's 3 Series during ATS development. And why not? The 3 is the world's compact sport sedan of choice; if you're going to pick a target, make it a good one.
The ATS is a four-passenger sedan available in RWD and AWD configurations. It offers a choice of three powerplants - two fours (one turbocharged) and a six - and a wide range of performance enhancements and options.
By its very nature, it's a temptress, beckoning one to places one should not venture — and making sure you love every moment of it.
But more about performance in a later post. For now, we'll say only that the ATS's talents outstrip those of any Caddy before it, save its big brother, the 556-hp CTS-V. Suffice to say, its capabilities also will surpass those possessed by all but a very exclusive handful of drivers.
It's a good one, but so is the 3 Series. We have a shoot-out on our hands, folks.
Before signing off, we'll note that the ATS:
- is less rougly $2,000 less expensive than the 3, when comparably equipped, says Cadillac;
- features Cadlillac's new CUE (Cadillac User Experience), an voice-activated touchscreen infotainment system that pairs as many as 10 Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, USBs, SD cards and MP3 players. You may not love it, but you'll learn to make your peace with it.
Check in tomorrow for a more detailed look at the systems that make the littlest Caddy go.